The Target car has won a lot of open wheel races. Today’s trip to victory lane though, was extra special.
Scott Dixon has finally conquered one of the most prestigious courses on the open wheel circuit. The Iceman has struggled at the historic Grand Prix of Long Beach, having earned only one top-ten finish in eight career races. In fact, he had never finished on the podium, and had an average finishing position of 16th. That all changed today, as he earned his first victory of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
It is career win number 36 for Dixon, which broke a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. He is now just three wins behind Al Unser for fourth place. It was also a much needed result for the No. 9 team after 15th and 11th place finishes in the first two races of the year. Pole sitter Helio Castroneves was second, and his Penske teammate Juan Montoya held on in a fierce battle for third place. Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five, which was all Ganassi and Penske cars.
Sebastien Bourdais was part of that intense battle for third place, but finished in sixth. Josef Newgarden had a solid weekend for CFH Racing in seventh, and Marco Andretti was the highest finishing Honda, finishing eighth. Carlos Munoz was ninth, and Sebastian Saavedra finished in the top ten in his first race back in IndyCar.
It was a solid day for Chip Ganassi’s team, with his four cars finishing first, fifth, 10th, and 15th respectively. Team Penske had three cars in the top five, but one of them was not Will Power. The reigning series champion had a miserable weekend, starting 18th and finishing in 20th after his car stalled on the sixth lap of the race. It was a big blow for the Aussie, but he took the high road after the race and only had himself to blame.
The average speed of the race was 96.800 mph, which is the fastest at Long Beach since 1994. It was a clean race, with just one early caution flag for debris.
Dixon led the most laps (44) on Sunday, and had complete control of the race once he got out ahead of Castroneves during pit stops. Dixon moved up 11 spots in the points standings, now sitting in fourth place, 32 points behind the leader Montoya. Power dropped three spots, down to sixth place.
The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 26. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday. This is the final event before the Month of May kicks off at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Will Power: “I feel bad for the Verizon Chevy Team. They worked so hard and me finishing P20 was a result of a bad day in qualifying. I didn’t get it done and it was snow ball effect from there. Today I made mistakes and I stalled the car on pit road during the first pit stop. Was hoping for a top ten finish but it didn’t happen. It makes me more motivated to make up for it the next couple races.”
Juan Montoya: “He had a little less rear wing. To be honest with you, I was surprised my tires were going off and not his. But mine went off and I saw him coming so I just had to not make a mistake, make sure I came out of the last corner (well). He was a little quicker down the straight so just pay attention how close he was and use the button, stuff like that. He was never really that close. He got close, maybe his nose to my rear tires, but that was about it. He never got next to me or anything.” (Was today a good result for the championship picture?) “Absolutely. That’s why I didn’t let Simon by. Third or fourth place, yeah, great we got a podium but it’s more points. It’s about being consistent and being smart. I said as long as I don’t have to risk the car to protect the points, it will be fine. And it worked well.”
Helio Castroneves: “It was actually nice, the weather. Obviously Southern California is nice. Certainly the track was constantly changing. Every time it gets new tires, reds versus blacks and things like that, it’s about two hours of racing and the track changed quite a lot. For us, we kept constantly changing a little but of the driving style because one lap is good and another was different. The Firestone tires were actually holding pretty good for me. My AAA car was awesome and we were pretty good all the way. (On when his crew held him longer in the pits) “The guys did a great job in the pits and especially the incident between me and Ganassi. It was just perfect. It was better to be safe than sorry, but it was a great job overall for Team Penske. At the end of the day, second place is not bad.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Today was pretty straight-forward. A little too straight-forward, I guess, with just the one caution and not a lot of chance to mix up strategies. We ran our race and did what we could. We got a couple guys on the first round and lost one or two of those in the second. We didn’t get a full tank on that last stop unfortunately, which forced us to save a bit of fuel on the last stint. It would’ve been interesting to see if we could’ve taken the fight to Graham [Rahal], [Sebastian] Saavedra and Carlos [Munoz] but we kept our nose clean. In an all-green race, there’s only so much you can do. Thanks to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics boys for the hard work all weekend. Now we regroup and go to Barber.”
Sebastian Saavedra: “A top-10 finish was an exciting way to start my relationship with the team. It helps to have a great car right out of the box and great teammates to support me after being out of the car for so long. This whole weekend was about getting the rust off and adapting to fuel-saving strategies and learning how to get the best out of the red and black tires. Overall I’m going home pleased with the finish. We know what we need to work on and improve for the next time I’m in the car. I’m happy for Scott and his first win of the season and hopefully we can work towards a better finish when I’m back in the car in Indy.”
Scott Dixon: “I like coming here, I love the event. But as far as an event and coming and doing well and looking forward to it, it was never really on that list. To finally conquer it- a lot of credit goes to a lot of people. That pit stop exchange there definitely helped us get to the lead, but the car was fast and we needed to maintain it. All in all, this is huge. Long Beach, I finally get to crack this one and I’m really happy. Firestone did a fantastic job. We even started on used (alternate) reds for the opening stint and were able to maintain pace. They are always good and we were able to maintain and look after them. For this weekend, our car was just dynamite on the (primary) blacks.”
Tony Kanaan: “We had to use up our tires trying to close the gap, towards the end once you get that close, we didn’t have it. When we got backed up with Montoya and Pagenaud, that slowed us down a bit. Those guys (Bourdais and Newgarden) caught us, but it was under control. Good result for the team, got some good points for the championship.” (On teammate Dixon’s win) “Scott did a great job. He’s a great teammate, had a slow start to the year. He’s a helluva driver, definitely a championship contender. Extremely happy for him.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a trying weekend, but we hit the reset button and the Hydroxycut machine was good. The guys really did a heck of a job. In one way it is frustrating because we struggled so much in practice and qualifying, but at the same time it is encouraging because we were able to recover. We tried something and it didn’t work, so we really hurt ourselves, but then when we got the car back in the window for the race we were quick. There will be some other weekends like this and we will just have to work hard to capitalize. Thanks to Hydroxycut and Mistic we have a strong package behind us and we just have to keep digging.”
Conor Daly: “It was fun. It was cool. To be at the Long Beach Grand Prix, I mean, this is a race that I’ve come to for the last 8 or 10 years. I love it. I love Southern California and I’m very happy. Obviously 17th is not really great but from what we came from and where we started, I’m very happy. To be that competitive pace-wise, that is the best part to me. We were very quick compared to the other Honda’s around us, so, I just want to do this more often. I did all I could do. I went out and brought the car home and did all of the laps we could do, which was the goal in the first place. I am very happy for the opportunity and thankful for sure. I was hoping this would happen at some point to get a call to race on a road course and I did and it was on one of my favorite road courses.”
Simon Pagenaud: “The car was fast. The last pit stop put us a little bit back, that’s when Juan Pablo (Montoya) got us. But all in all, a good day. It was fun, we had a lot of pace in the car. We just had to stop a little further up to win the race. But I’m really happy, was a great fight with Juan Pablo and Helio. It’s not tougher (with teammates), it’s just the nature of who it is. It’s Juan Pablo and Helio (Castroneves), so they don’t give you much room, that’s for sure. I’m starting to understand what I can and cannot do with my teammates, and obviously it’s pretty open. It was good fun, fair racing.”
Marco Andretti: “Always nice to be in the top 10, but it’s a bit frustrating because we are sort of maximizing what we are dealt. I can see if we made mistakes and ended up eighth then fine, but I’m not sure that we could have done better today. It will take a bit more development on everything and we’ll work for more in Barber next week.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Today was a big disappointment for us, probably one of the worst races we’ve had from green to checkered. I had a car I couldn’t drive hard when I needed to. The strategy we went for didn’t work out. Our pit stops did not really work out. Nothing really worked out for us today. I guess sometimes you have those days in racing, but they’re certainly not days we ever want to be accustomed to having. We’ll regroup and move on to Barber.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was definitely a decent result. Our guys have been working hard and it’s nice to get some consistent results over the last couple of races. Obviously we wanted to be higher. I tried to get by Montoya after that first stop and got into the rubber on the outside of Turn 10. I picked up a lot of debris on the tires and it took me a long time to clean it up. I lost a lot of time to the leader and fell into the clutches of (Sebastien) Bourdais and (Tony) Kanaan and never got back away from them. We had a little bit of trouble in the pit stop as we had to wait for Graham (Rahal) and after that we lost out to Tony and Sebastian. We came home seventh, so it’s disappointing that we didn’t reach our potential. We are pushing hard at CFH Racing. We’ve got a really strong group and we’re close to knocking on the door. We will come back for the next round in Barber and try and one up these guys!”
Race Photos via IndyCar